'I’m willing to die on the mountain' - Norwich City chief on passion for peaks
- Credit: Danielle Booden
It was a venture which raised eyebrows among a few Norwich City fans, when the club's sporting director headed off to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro during January's transfer window and with the side struggling at the foot of the Premier League.
But it is clear that little will get in the way of Stuart Webber's passion for scaling the world's highest peaks - including Mount Everest - as he disclosed on his new podcast that he was "willing to die on the mountain".
Webber was speaking on the first episode of The Climb Podcast, a new series he has launched to publicise his climbing exploits, which he hopes will culminate in an ascent on the world's highest peak and £1m raised for charity.
“You don’t just turn up and give it a go," he said. "One thing I’m very passionate about is that: you can die on this mountain - I’m willing to die on the mountain but I’m not willing to die or have someone else killed because of my lack of preparation.
“I hate people being unprepared for things, especially when there are lives at stake. So the guide I end up going with, we have to be very comfortable with each other because I need to trust that when we’re up there, if they say ‘enough is enough, you need to turn around now’ that I believe them."
Webber has set himself the Everest challenge to raise money for The Summit Foundation, which he founded with his wife - Norwich City’s executive director Zoe Ward - to create opportunities and educational programmes for young people.
The Welshman, 37, started training for the ascent last year and spent 10 days in January climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - a decision which prompted criticism from some Norwich City fans online, who wanted to see more activity in the transfer window to help the Canaries in their uphill battle to avoid relegation.
This has been followed by training climbs of Snowdon back home in Wales and is set to continue this summer with two mountains in Ecuador in June, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.
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Once the summer transfer window has closed, a September trip to Mont Blanc is planned, with a November expedition to the Himalayas in November when the club season takes a break for the 2022 World Cup, to tackle the 6,189m summit of Island Peak.
Ultimately, Webber hopes to attempt Everest’s 8,849m summit in the summer of 2023 or 2024.
He hosts The Climb Podcast alongside friend and City fan Jonathan Parramint, a writer and development producer in the television industry who is also a trustee of The Summit Foundation
On the first episode, Webber discussed the motivations behind his off-field activities.
“The charity was sort of born out of myself and my wife talking about social issues in Norfolk.
“We look at maybe the lack of education around young people now and how they can get a better life for themselves.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had aspirations and been able to follow some of our dreams but I think there are so many young people now who are brought up in maybe not particularly great home lives, or schools where there are too many kids to a classroom and teachers can’t spend enough time with these kids.
“We wanted to do something where we could maybe inspire young people but then also help them. So, for example, there’s maybe a young person that wants to go to university but can’t afford it or doesn’t have the family support.
“They could maybe apply for a grant from the charity and that might help someone get out of a particular area, go to university or college, start a business or whatever it may be – and show them they can make a success of their lives.
“Ultimately the aim is that person going back into their community and helping another person, to really gain momentum around educating people.
“We wanted to do our bit for our little corner of the world that myself and Zoe have fallen in love with. We wanted to help and this is the idea we’ve come up with.”
The couple have a five-year-old son, Sebastian, named after Formula One star Sebastian Vettel – another interest of Webber’s.
AT HIS HAPPIEST WHEN WALKING
City’s chief revealed at the club’s annual general meeting in November that instead of signing a new contract he would move onto a rolling one-year deal from this summer, admitting his next job is unlikely to be in football.
While he has loved the successes he has enjoyed with Norwich City - including two promotions - he is at his happiest when out walking.
“I’ve always had a dream to climb Mount Everest. I love being outside, I love mountains and walking is a passion,” he explained.
“If I got a call, or a text off God tonight saying ‘mate, you’re done tomorrow, you’re going to do die’ I would factor in a walk. It’s when I’m probably at my happiest, when I walk.
“Everest has always been a dream so I set myself the goal and I’d love to be able to raise, with the help of a lot of people, a million pounds by the time I hopefully get the opportunity to summit Everest.
“It’s obviously a big dream and a big challenge but it’s like everything in life – there's no point in doing an easy challenge.”
As well as more detail of his preparations, the Aberystwyth native also discussed his journey from youth coach with Wrexham to rising through the ranks of Liverpool’s academy staff and then on to first-team roles with QPR, Wolves and Huddersfield before arriving in Norfolk.
He also disclosed that superstar manager Jose Mourinho had been an idol for him as a coach initially.
Future episodes of the podcast will feature guests including City’s joint majority shareholder Delia Smith and former England defender Rio Ferdinand.
For further details, head to thesummitfoundation.co.uk.